Blog Entry

'91 Giants-49ers playoff game all about hard hits

Posted on: January 20, 2012 11:00 pm
New York and San Francisco met on January 20, 1991 and Montana and Hostetler both took beatings that day. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

On Sunday, the Giants face the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Twenty-one years ago, these two teams faced off in the very same conference final, one the Giants would win, 15-13 (you can view the box score here). But as you'll see in the videos below, their brand of tackle football is virtually unrecognizable. There was no such thing at the Tom Brady rule or defenseless receivers or helmet-to-helmet hits, and defensive backs could mug would-be pass-catchers without penalty.

Still, there are plenty of familiar faces: Giants' defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, 49ers backup quarterback Steve Young, and of course Lawrence Taylor, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. And there's even a cameo by a smack-talking Jon Bon Jovi.

"We're like guys from Jersey -- we drink beer out of cans, you know, and Budweiser. And we don't have cheerleaders and we don't have fancy stuff. We just know how to go down and make guys like Joe Montana feel sick." - a prophetic Jon Bon Jovi

Just about every hit in these seven minutes of footage would be illegal today. By our rough estimate, several players would've faced six-figure fines for this one game. And forget about monetary sanctions for Leonard Marshall. If he made that hit in today's NFL, he would've been promptly frog-marched off the field in handcuffs and thrown in the nearest jail without a trial.

Here's Montana talking about said collision:

After watching this we've come to several conclusions, including the most obvious: James Harrison was born 20 years too late.

"My ribs and chest hurt so bad that I didn't know my hand was broken," Montana said of Marshall's hit. "Normally when you get knocked out you can breathe a little bit of air out, but I couldn't even get a breath out. I was thinking, 'Oh god, I'm gonna die here.' Something is seriously wrong."

Brandon Jacobs might be tough by 2012 standards but we're guessing he'd want no part of this 1991 get-together.

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Since: Jan 2, 2010
Posted on: January 21, 2012 1:38 pm

'91 Giants-49ers playoff game all about hard hits

That hit by Marshall would effect the entire NFL. 9ers don't win 3 strait SB's, montana never plays a down for them again. Steve young most likely is traded If montanta had won that super bowl, the 9ers most likely win one or two more bowls with a healthy Joe and that offense. Roger Craig would have not been the scapegoat and been run out of town, And the 9ers would have gone down as the greatest dynasty IN the history of the game by far. I can't think of a bigger hit changing the landscape of the NFL for years to come than the one Joe took that championship sunday. The only other hit I can think of is the one Bledsoe took to start the Tom Brady era.

It was  clean hit in 1991, and it was one of the best championship games I've seen considering what was at steak with the " threepeat"  and underdog G-men led by backup Qb, and an ageless Otis Anderson.

Since: Jun 5, 2009
Posted on: January 21, 2012 11:58 am

'91 Giants-49ers playoff game all about hard hits

    Seriously, it was a good hit and not illegal. Honestly i watched football in both era's and the problem the last ten years is twofold.
Some players were headhunting before the rule changes, and certainly low hits and chop blocking were getting out of control.
I thought these kind of hits happened in the 80's but not as much. Why was it happening? Probably al the ridiculous money even the lowest paid stars make. The lesser guys finding ways to contribute. The other thing is how elusive even your average player is these days. Alot of defensive guys selling out to get the tackle or sack lead to poor technique. Think about it, how many game do you watch these days when more often then not you see the Qb get away or throw it away instead of getting sacked.

    Oh well just my observations.

Since: Jan 21, 2012
Posted on: January 21, 2012 11:48 am

'91 Giants-49ers playoff game all about hard hits

The author must either not understand the new rules, or have watched a totally different set of clips. Only one hit would have been flagged under the current rules - a low hit on the QB.  There was no helmet-to-helmet rubbish here, this was back when players actually knew how to tackle properly. I don't see how people can talk about the violence being taken out of football, when all of the violent hits here are still legal and fine - if the players had the skill to execute them. Harrison is apparently not capable of proper tackling (Dunta Robinson certainly isnt....), and this would have been even more of a weakness when that wasnt so common with defensive players - he would have needed to change his tackling technique back then. Half the reason offenses are so far on top now is because defensive players make far too many awful attempts at tackling. The helmet-to-helmet hits are part of that problem, taking them out of the game might actually improve defensive play.

Also, even this far back you still werent technically allowed to touch the reciever past 5 yards from the line of scrimmage - you could only get away with a little bit more than now (although they didnt call the pathetically weak pass interference penalties then....)

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